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Monday, 27 October 2014

Spot the difference: The next chapter


Further to my April post http://cbcatas.blogspot.com.au/2014_04_01_archive.html, the foreign language picture book collection has grown since a recent journey to Japan.  Always with an eye open for popular children’s books in foreign languages, Japanese book shops did not disappoint – but Spot was harder to find.

My forays were based in Tokyo and my first bookshop browse found numerous popular English language titles. The most notable: The Giving Tree and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. But not one Spot book could I spot. Loath to go away without one Japanese title, a mini version of Eric Carle’s greedy caterpillar was purchased and easily stowed.

But now I was on a mission and that night logged into the trusty iPad and searched for the largest Japanese bookshop I know – Kinokuniya. And found it! In Tokyo! Just a few train lines and subway stops away.  

Kinokuniya is 6 storeys high, with each floor focusing on a particular genre of book. Naturally, signage is in Japanese and helpful shop assistants kept directing us to the foreign language floor. In the end we caught the elevator to the 6th floor and worked our way down. And on the 4th floor we found the children’s department. Joy J

There were a few challenges. There were many, many books – shelves of them – most with only their spines showing. We scouted around until we located a large section of translated books. There were The Giving Tree and the Very Hungry Caterpillar, and the recent rerelease of The 3 Robbers amongst many others. But no sign of Spot.  A young non-English speaking shop assistant came to help.  With some dramatic dog like actions, tail wagging and ‘woof woofing’  (wondering if dogs said ‘woof’ in Japanese) the light dawned and she took us to the non-fiction pet books. We took her back to the translated section and tried a different tack. I picked up The 3 Robbers and without being able to read a word of Japanese, correctly identified the author’s name on the cover. The sales assistant said “Tomi Ungerer’ with a delightful accent. I then wrote down ‘Eric Hill’ on her notepad, ‘woofed’ and she laughed. A light bulb moment. Off to a senior sales person, a computer search, and back she came, straight to the shelves, flicked through the spines and pulled out two Spot books.

And yes, I bought both. I have added Japanese versions of Where’s Spot and Who’s There Spot? to the collection. A successful, and hilarious, day’s shopping. And as a matter of interest, both books were in hardback and were priced at around $12 each. Books in Japan are affordable and highly valued.

Jennie Bales

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